Wizards

Wizards draft decisions: Okongwu vs. Achiuwa

Wizards
© Joe Rondone/The Commercial Appeal, Memphis Commercial Appeal via Imagn Content Services, LLC

The Wizards may find themselves selecting between two players when they are on the board with the No. 9 overall pick. Here is a compare-and-contrast look at the two best rim-protecting big men who could potentially be available at that spot...

ONYEKA OKONGWU (USC) VS. PRECIOUS ACHIUWA (MEMPHIS)

Age: Okongwu 19 / Achiuwa 21 Height/weight: Okongwu 6'9", 245 lbs. / Achiuwa 6'9", 225 lbs. Wingspan: Okongwu 7'1" / Achiuwa 7'2" Key stats: Okongwu 16.2 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 2.7 bpg, 61.6 FG% / Achiuwa 15.8 ppg, 10.8 rpg, 1.9 bpg, 49.3 FG%

The factors: The Wizards enter this offseason with a familiar need for rim protection and a desperate need for rebounding, which hasn't been their strength for many years, but has been particularly debilitating ever since Marcin Gortat was traded. If they want to address both areas in the draft, the best choices at the No. 9 pick are likely to be Onyeka Okongwu of USC and Precious Achiuwa of Memphis. Both are athletic, can rebound, block shots and could fit well in the modern game despite the fact neither can shoot from the outside. They can each run the floor and play above the rim.

Okongwu is the higher-rated prospect across mock drafts. He is a year and three months younger, is slightly bigger, blocked more shots in college, scored more efficiently and succeeded in a better conference. When watching their film, you can see Okongwu offers a more developed game off the dribble and around the rim. But that doesn't necessarily mean he will be the better player at the NBA level. 

 

Achiuwa was the better rebounder in college, pulling in nearly 11 per game, and he showed more in the way of a three-point shot. He knocked down 32.5 percent on 1.3 attempts per game, which although not good, is better than Okongwu who only attempted four threes all year. It's not even a part of his thought process to shoot from long range.

Okongwu, though, is getting a lot of hype because he has been closely compared to Heat star Bam Adebayo, who has been a force in the playoffs. Adebayo has been so good, teams may be thinking in terms of finding the next version of him and that could be Okongwu, to a certain extent. Achiuwa's best-case player comparison may be Montrezl Harrell, who has emerged as a borderline All-Star for the L.A. Clippers.

RELATED: If Wizards want their own Bam Adebayo, they might find him in Onyeka Okongwu

The decision: If the Wizards hone in on defense and rebounding with the No. 9 pick, the call could be made for them, as Okongwu may be gone by the time they are on the board. While some outlets are projecting him to the Wizards at nine, others have him going higher. It could play out similar to last year with Jaxson Hayes, who went right before the Wizards to the Pelicans.

If the Wizards really want Okongwu, they may have to trade up. General manager Tommy Sheppard has signaled he is willing to move up, but it can be a costly maneuver. An ideal scenario would be them feeling good with either player, so that if Okongwu is gone they can turn to Achiuwa and make do without having to part with future picks or key players.

Achiuwa is almost certain to be available at nine, with most mock drafts having him in the teens and some placing him in the low 20s. Really, he would be similar to the Wizards' last two first round picks - Troy Brown Jr. (15th in 2018) and Rui Hachimura (9th in 2019) - in that they would take a player some might call a reach at their spot. But, as Hachimura has shown, that practice can work well if you really feel confident in the pick.

Also, Achiuwa profiles as the type that could be overlooked, not unlike Hachimura or his college teammate Brandon Clarke, who was a revelation this season as a first-team All-Rookie despite being taken 21st overall by the Grizzlies. Like both Hachimura and Clarke, Achiuwa is already in his 20s, so a bit older than the top prospects who are 18 and 19 years old. And he doesn't have a rounded out offensive game, while many teams prefer guys who have already displayed a shooting touch. Achiuwa's 59.9 free throw percentage is likely to scare some teams in that regard.

If both are available, Okongwu would be the choice for the Wizards, barring something unexpected. But if Okongwu is gone, Achiuwa could make sense, even at No. 9, given how well he would fit.